Navy Estimates, 1942.

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply. – in the House of Commons on 26th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

Up to now we have not had a lot of encouragement from the flow of shipping from the United States. We should be pleased to have information as to the nature and kind of shipping being sent to us. We are left in some doubt, when pictures are conjured up and hopes are stirred up, and when, a few months later, we find there has been no basis for them. The reaction is much worse than it might have been if the full facts had been given to us earlier. I have already asked whether the First Lord will let the House and the country—and I am not so concerned about the House—know what the difficulties are, if there are any, in regard to the supply of labour. Are there difficulties in getting on with repairs as fast as we can? It is no use communicating the facts privately to hon. Members who are not in a position to make use of them in the quarters that are desired. I will leave that aspect of the matter. I can see that there is a delicate position to handle, and that the First Lord may be placed in a delicate position in this respect.

In a former Debate I asked whether there was any co-ordination of war strategy. That question was met, but only in a measure, by a statement given by the Dominions Secretary, who said that the necessary steps had been or were being taken to concert military plans among the major Allied Powers. We must, of course, accept that statement, but we are concerned to know what steps are being taken to concert our own different arms, so that they may co-operate together in the most advantageous manner. Is there any such co-operation between our own arms? Is there a joint operational staff? Obviously there could not have been when the three German ships escaped from Brest. Every mark of divided control was displayed. Matters like that arouse very strong feelings of unrest and dissatisfaction. This does not mean that our people are nervous or afraid, but they want to know whether our arms are being used as efficiently and as co-operatively as they should be.

We now look back over a period in which there has been a series of disasters in the Royal Navy, and many of them still await explanation to this House. We still have the right to ask whether the persons responsible for those disasters are still in positions where they can repeat those blunders or whether disciplinary action has been taken against them. We have never had an answer to such questions, although they have been asked ever since the loss of the "Royal Oak." The First Lord admitted that somebody was to blame, but we never knew whether anybody had been brought to account for it. The same observation applies to a series of other incidents, down to the escape of the ships from Brest. Was it part of the plan that six Swordfish planes should be the first to engage three enemy ships equipped with powerful anti-aircraft armament, overhead protection to serve as a screen, and everything tuned up to meet the expected attack? The First Lord said in a speech the other day: I hear criticism in regard to the fact that two or three ships got through the English Channel the other day. I do not think that was the proper way in which to refer to that kind of event.